November 25, 2013

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Not So Fast, “Catching Fire”


Yesterday’s studio estimate for THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) seemed high, with a Sunday drop predicted to be by far the lowest in the Top 10, so it’s not much of a surprise to see the weekend number reduced now that final figures are out, down $3M from $161.1M to $158.1M.  Even with the change, Catching Fire remains the biggest non-summer opener ever and healthily ahead of the start for the first Hunger Games.  But it’s no longer the highest-opening 2D movie, and it slips from #4 to #6 on the list of all-time opening weekends, in both cases because it’s now behind The Dark Knight ($158.4M) and The Dark Knight Rises ($160.9M).

$3M here or there isn’t a particularly major concern for a blockbuster like Catching Fire.  The bigger box office question is how it will hold during the 5-day Thanksgiving holiday.  In each of the last 2 years, Thanksgiving was dominated by one of the Breaking Dawns, which were extremely front-loaded.  After the usual Monday plunge, they each had modest increases on Tuesday and Wednesday, then a big drop on the holiday itself, followed by roughly doubling on Friday, then a tiny drop on Saturday and a big one on Sunday.  The result was that in the full week after their opening weekends, the Breaking Dawns made an amount equal to about 61-62% of their opening weekends.  If that model holds for Catching Fire, it would be at around $255M by Sunday, still narrowly ahead of Hunger Games, which was at $248M after 10 days of release.  But there’s definite potential upside for Catching Fire, which has more of an older audience that isn’t quite as female-skewing, which may make it less front-loaded.

Incidentally, Catching Fire wasn’t the only movie to indulge in some wishful thinking with its weekend estimates.  For some reason, DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks/Disney) thought it was worth exaggerating by 3% to push its weekend above $8M, when its real total was an even more horrific $7.9M, and the expanding NEBRASKA (Paramount) was overstated by 7%, giving it a less impressive $11.6K per-theatre average.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."